As you can tell I am researching the life of this man, here is where I will collect the bits that I write on that journey.
Today, 18th April 2016, I am transcribing the tenth of fifteen notebooks written by E.D.E for the Postal Microscopic Society between 1949 and about 1960. This task has been ongoing for the last year and is mesmerising.
The small trigesimo-secundo (roughly A6) notebooks were written to accompany collections of slides which circulated to members, via the post, for them to examine.
The preparer made notes about the slides and the members added their comments and information. Each box took about two years to circulate and some even travelled overseas and around North America. The majority of entries are handwritten and some of the books have 100 pages of tiny notes, drawings and other inclusions members have seen fit to add.
In the Introductory notes, the interval notes (added when the box passed back through E.D.E’s hands on circuit) and the conclusion notes E.D.E. reveals a myriad of information, not just about the slides and their content, but about himself and his life. The comments reveal some wonderful characters in the PMS.
Being an obssesive person I tend to apply myself to a notebook intensely, wanting to get through the notes and know what they contain. As a result during transcription I am in an anachronistic place immersed in the words that surround me.
I read the pages of wonderfully correct and lucid English of the style I was taught, but rarely use nowadays. Most entries are a delight of even script in Parker Blue ink in from fountain pens, occasionally an early biro blobs its way across the page. There are always a few commentators with illegible swirls of writing and some who have pasted in their typed comments, sometimes there are newspaper cuttings or photomicrographs, all shiny and in black and white. I am in the 1950’s.
Television had not gazumped our evenings – members “spent a very interesting evening with the slides”. Gentlemen wore suits and ties and addressed one another as Mr. And ladies rarely entered this scene although one member regularly comments “my wife enjoys looking at these slides with the Greenough”[a type of stereo microscope], which generally provokes a comment “they are best viewed on a Wenham” [another of the same]. If you tried to buy either of this type of microscope today they would cost you a pretty penny as they are also ‘a bit of brass and glass’ and people drool over them.
Mr. Evens describes his collecting forays, travelling down to ‘Combe on the paddle steamer for the afternoon of collecting, or making a quick collection from a nearby bog (bit of waterlogged ground – we are in the ’50s) whilst waiting for a train. The world was an exciting place – and I remember it too – life was gradually speeding up but you could still wander through open countryside only a short stone’s throw from Bristol. You can probably still do that, but they infilled Conygar Quarry and built houses on it. For twenty years he regularly visited it and collected fossils from the Coal age (Carboniferous) that revealed the plants that had been there 300 million years ago.
I have transcribed over 80,000 words in the nine and one part books so far covered. In doing so I have felt that I was there hearing these people discussing the various marvels and wonders in the boxes. At times I think I know all the facts I have transcribed, but actually what I do is I know OF those facts. I think I know the people, especially E.D.E but I am only listening to their shadows and sometimes I feel like a voyeur.
What I am is excited because I have identified over 100 of the slides mentioned as being in the Quekett Microscopical Club E. D. Evens Slide Collection. The very slides that the PMS members looked at and commented on are there, tangible objects about which I now know a great deal.
The slide collection was given to the QMC to keep them secure and safe – which they are – and so that the wonderful information would be there for future students and generations. the notes written in the books were to disseminate information and knowledge. And that’s what I am doing, unlocking the information so it may be shared without damaging the slides. Who wouldn’t get a buzz from this?